This Roast Pork Belly might just be the easiest recipe I’ve ever shared. Heck, it might also be the tastiest! It’s Paleo compliant but is super indulgent.
It’s as simple as popping a slab of pork belly in an oven and roasting it low-and-slow until crispy, juicy and delicious. You just need some salt, pepper, and a high-quality slab of belly. And a couple of hours of patience or yard work to keep you occupied.
You can serve the roast pork belly as is over a bed of cauliflower rice, Asian-inspired slaw, or alongside your favourite steamed vegetables.
Another option is to slice the pork belly into bite-size pieces and serve them as appetizers alongside some Maple-Mustard vinaigrette! The sweet, salty, tangy acidic vinaigrette is perfect against the rich, juicy pork.
I’m not a betting man, but I’d wager a guess that “Pork Belly Bites with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette” would make for a killer holiday appetizer! You can prepare the vinaigrette and pork belly ahead of time. Store the vinaigrette at room temperature in a mason jar and keep the pork in a warm oven until ready to serve.
The Secrets to Crispy Pork Belly Crackling
As easy as this recipe is, it can also go wrong very quickly. Here are a few tricks to making sure your pork belly develops a delicious, crispy crackling while still maintaining a juicy centre:
1. Quality is Key
There are three ingredients in this recipe: pork belly, kosher salt and black pepper. In other words, the meat has nothing to hide behind so you want to make sure that you are buying the best possible cut of meat you can find and afford.
You also want to be picky when it comes to the fat to meat ratio.
This recipe is intended to be served as a source of protein in a meal so choosing a slab of belly with an ample amount of meat is crucial. Otherwise you’ll just be serving slices of fat. Sure, it will be delicious, but fat alone is a bit too rich as a stand alone item.
Luckily, pork belly remains one of the most affordable cuts of meat so opting for something organic won’t break the bank. I recommend taking a trip to a local butcher you trust and asking them for a heritage breed animal that was raised humanely without the use of antibiotics or hormones.
If you’re in the GTA, The Healthy Butcher is the place to go. They always patiently amuse me as I ask them sort through multiple cuts until I find the one I like.
2. Score the Skin
Scoring the thick, tough skin that encapsulates the pork belly is crucial. Not only will it allow for more of the fat to render, which will leave you with a less greasy finished product, but scoring the skin will also prevent the belly from curling up as it cooks.
The best tool for the job is actually an X-Acto knife. I don’t know about you but all my X-Acto knives are covered in rust so I just use a super sharp chef’s knife or my opinel. Speaking of, if you need some pointers on knife sharpening, you can watch my tried-and-true process here.
The trick to scoring the skin, however, is not to penetrate too deep into the layer of fat beneath it and to also avoid scoring the edges of the belly. By scoring ‘within the lines’, so-to-speak, you will ensure that the belly maintains an even shape while also preventing it from falling apart at the edges when carving.
It also helps to place the belly in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before scoring. This way the skin firms up a bit and makes it easier to score.
3. Add Some Steam
Adding a tray of water underneath your pork belly while roasting serves two functions:
A) It creates a moist, steamy environment that will prevent the meat from drying out.
Just be careful when opening the oven or all that steam is going to knock you right in the kisser!
B) The tray of water will catch any fat as it starts to render and drip away from the meat. The fat can otherwise scorch and create unpleasant aromas if it falls into a dry roasting tray.
Simply fill a 3″ or 4″-deep roasting tray with water (it doesn’t really matter how much as long as it doesn’t fully evaporated during the cooking process) and place an oven-safe wire rack above it. Then cook the pork belly skin-side up on the wire rack.
Alternatively, if you don’t have an oven-safe wire rack, you can cook the pork belly directly on one of the oven racks and place the tray of water directly beneath it. I actually prefer this method because as you preheat the oven, the rack gets hot and slightly sears the meat on the bottom of the belly.
4. Broil to Finish
One thing I like to do is switch the oven to broil for a few minutes after roasting the belly.
This allows for the skin to puff up like popcorn and expand into a light, airy crackling. Otherwise, I find the skin to be crispy but also a bit too tough to chew.
Just make sure to keep a close eye on the belly as it broils. It can burn in no time flat!
One tip to help you remember you’ve switched the oven to broiling is to leave the oven door slightly ajar.
5. Slice Skin-Side Down
The most common mistake I see people make when carving into a beautifully cooked piece of pork belly with crispy crackling is they slice it skin-side up. They’ve just spent hours waiting for this moment only to see their dreams crumble to pieces before their very eyes (literally).
No doubt, slicing skin-side up makes for a much prettier presentation, especially if doing it for the ‘gram 😉
Nevertheless, I have found that it is easier and more practical to flip the belly skin-side down and slice into the meat first. The belly maintains its shape and the skin stays attached to each piece.
Roast Pork Belly - Paleo
for the Pork Belly
- 1.5-2 lbs pork belly uncut slab
- kosher salt
- freshly-cracked black pepper
for Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette
- 1 clove garlic - finely grated or minced
- 2 tbsp whole-grain mustard - such as Moutarde de Meaux
- 1 tbsp 100% natural, organic maple syrup
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper - to taste
for the Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette
- To a mason jar, add garlic, mustard, maple syrup, EVOO and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Top with lid and shake vigorously until emulsified. Taste for seasoning and adjust as required. Set aside at room temperature. Or, store in fridge and remove 10-15 minutes before serving.
For the Pork Belly
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Rinse pork belly with cold water and pat very dry with paper towel. Using a very sharp knife or X-acto knife, score the skin diagonally in both directions. Tip: avoid cutting edges so that the belly holds its shape while cooking.
- Season all sides of the belly with kosher salt. Flip belly skin-side down and season the bottom half with black pepper. If any black pepper gets on the skin, rub it off with a paper towel.
- To a mason jar, add garlic, mustard, maple syrup, EVOO and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Top with lid and shake vigorously until emulsified. Taste for seasoning and adjust as required. Set aside.
- Place belly, skin-side up on a wire rack set over a deep roasting tray filled with 4-5 cups of water. Roast belly 2-2.5hrs or until skin is crispy and belly is very tender. Tip: For extra crispy skin (crackling) switch oven to broil and cook an additional 6-8 min.
- Remove belly from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Flip belly skin-side down, carve into slices and serve over a bed of cauliflower rice, Asian-inspired slaw, or alongside your favourite steamed vegetables.
- Or slice into bite-sized pieces and serve with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette.